Monday, June 1, 2009

The 2nd Anniversary of the Nigerian Proclamation was on Friday May 29th. That day was also a holiday in Nigeria set aside to celebrate the transition to democracy and on that day in 2007, current President Yar'Adua was inaugurated. In 2007, bloggers reacted to the unsatisfactory elections by sharing the Nigerian Proclamation online. Considering that the general and Presidential elections of 2007 were rife with violence and irregularities, there is definitely room for improvement on the quest to a free and fair democratic system. It is also hard to ignore that the most recent elections in Ekiti State reflected a harsh reality - that fair and peaceful democratic elections are still the exception to the norm.

What is clearly the norm is that Nigeria's government and connected elite ensure that the people live in utter chaos so as to deny them the opportunity to think of ways to change their situation. Chaos prevents progress, thus, an individual focused on finding food will not have the luxury to spend time thinking of how to improve his/her situation. All efforts and energies will be spent on satisfying hunger. Likewise, an individual that does not have constant/regular electricity cannot watch the local or international news and will know little of the happenings in his/her own country. How can such a person constructively participate in civil society and or effectively contribute to change when they have inadequate information?. By depriving the people of basic necessities available in most modern societies - electricity, adequate health care (where citizens do not have to fly abroad for care), simple structures that protect the interests of the people and allow for progress and change - the Nigerian government and the super elites maintain a status quo that is detrimental to the majority of the people.

It is not hard to see how this unfortunate chaos is exemplified in Nigeria. Consider the nation's electricity problems. It is well known that certain individuals have become billionaires by taking advantage of and even encouraging or guaranteeing the non-existent state of electricity in the country. Because there is hardly any reliable electricity supply, Nigerians buy generators which are predominantly powered by diesel. Those businessmen and women who supply diesel benefit from the chaotic electricity situation and without adequate regulation, they are in a position to ensure that their income stream does not dry up. That means continued interruptions in electricity supply to make sure demand for their product increases. Consequently, a small group makes a financial windfall off the suffering of the majority. It might seem like basic capitalistic economics, but in a country where politicians are not accountable to the constituents, such a reality - capitalist or not - fosters corruption, limits the democratic right of the people to determine their future and keeps the nation, save for those fortunate enough to afford generators and the fuels that power them, in darkness.
So, on this, the 2nd anniversary of the Nigerian Proclamation, one cannot help but remember when the simple, but concerted act, of putting up a message on websites, was a way to address the complicated issues of Nigeria and its situation. The question at this point is what factors will break the stranglehold of those who maintain and benefit from the current status quo so as to give ordinary Nigerians a chance to flourish in a country that provides at least the basic necessities of the 21st century.

In addition to the obvious - remedying the nation's electricity, infrastructure and health deficits, a growing middle and upper class will be essential to transforming Nigeria. However, if those who gain financial and career success do not engage in civic and political issues, but align themselves, as is currently the case, with those who maintain the status quo, nothing will change. Additionally, true electoral reform is necessary to create a democratic system where people believe that their peaceful vote and participation in politics can make a meaningful difference. This will not only help to tranform the nation's image abroad, it will equally change the way Nigerians see themselves. There are so many ways, big and small, that Nigeria can become a better nation, and it all depends not on the government, but on the individuals and the choices they make.

While many assert that for positive change to take place, Nigeria's political elite must first change themselves, the unfortunate reality is that these individuals and groups have no reason to change their modus operandi and as such, any tactic that waits on them for progress will likely fail. As such, average Nigerians must continue to do the little they can to make their lives, and the lives of those around them, better. They must do this independent of the government and the cohorts of those who control Nigeria. If not, the chaotic standards that many Nigerians have become accustomed to will simply continue and they will stall any meaningful progress. If that is the case, Nigeria's children will inherit an inherently chaotic country where things fail to function normally and that will sideline them from becoming competitive members of the highly intersected, global community. Hopefully, chaos will not be the legacy passed on to future generations.

UPDATE: Please read Imnakoya's post on how Nigeria can get to free and fair elections. It makes for very insightful reading.

Related articles:
- The Nigerian Proclamation
- Epilogue: The Proclamation
- Nigerian Proclamation on BBC
- The Nigerian Proclamation: Making A Statement
- The Nigerian Proclamation: One Year
- 2 Years Later: Nigerian Proclamation

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19 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

N.I.M.M.O said...

Very incisive post as usual and very true. Most of the actions of government are meant to take our attentions from their failings.

Most of the people in Nigeria are busy trying to solve the problems of government and governance that they never get around to actually living and using their talents. That's why it looks like those Nigerians who live outside the country are more successful at stuff.

Most of the time, the things they would ordinarily have had to contend with in the country have been taken care of in their countries of residence. You require almost triple the amount of energy required to achieve basic tasks like fueling your car.

Also, its is usually in the interest of those who have benefited from the chaotic status quo to try and sustain it. Any attempt to change it is usually met with fatal consequences.

Remember MKO Abiola?

Unfortunate but true.

N.I.M.M.O said...

I was at the Lagos state Tax office in VI last week to file some returns and I was shocked to find a queue in the place! In fact, its obvious that the office is now too small for the crowd its meant to serve.

Several years ago this was not possible. People only paid taxes when forced to do so or when they want to bid for a contract and a tax clearance was required. Besides, you could get an 'orijo' tax clearance from Oluwole for 2k Naira.

To me this proves that Nigerians know and want to do the right things IF the proper channels and benefits are stated. particularly the benefits.

Rather than threaten to 'beat up' non tax payers as previous governments have done, the Lagos state government has used what I call its 'performance persuasions' to get Lagosians to pay their taxes.

Its now common to see Lagosians reminding each other on the streets 'Haf you pay your tasss?.

N.I.M.M.O said...

Is it appropriate to shout 'First' on Nigerian Curiosity?

Well, I was first and second and third too.



@ N.I.M.M.O.: "Most of the time, the things they would ordinarily have had to contend with in the country have been taken care of in their countries of residence. You require almost triple the amount of energy required to achieve basic tasks like fueling your car."Exactly! And that is why, no matter what anyone says, I have the utmost respect for Nigerians who despite the odds, somehow manage to thrive. Our government fails us, but yet we succeed someway, somehow.

And like you noted, anyone who tries to change the status quo ends up in serious trouble. So, how can we ever effect true change then?

Anyway, thank you so much for getting this discussion going with your insightful comments.

@ N.I.M.M.O.: there is clear progress being made by some elected officials in the country. They have convinced those who needed convincing to loosen up their grip in order to bring some progress to their regions. hence the "progress persuasion" you mention in Lagos.

And as for shouting "First", no problems, na you wey carry 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Oh, thanks for paying your "tass" oh!

StandTall-The Activist said...

"average Nigerians must continue to do the little they can to make their lives, and the lives of those around them, better. They must do this independent of the government and the cohorts of those who control Nigeria" as if you were there at the event I attended on Saturday. I said thsoe words in a different way.

I worry about the future of my country but then I believe if we all do the little we can by even having the right mentality, I think we are going to have a good beginning.

Omo Oba said...

lol@ NIMMO's you could get an 'orijo' tax clearance from Oluwole for 2k Naira. I guess the queue is a good problem to have - good to know.

So I came here to re-state SSD's quote that average Nigerians must do what they will and what they can independent of our government; only to find that ST-the activist beat me to it. Well said, SSD (no surprises)! but in as much as we do what we can do, we also need to have appropriate checks and balances. thank God our judiciary system has woken up from its slumber! so yes, i see a glimmer of hope somewhere in this darkness. that beautiful child on this post, SSD, tells it all.

imnakoya said...

To answer your question: "what factors will break the stranglehold of those who maintain and benefit from the current status quo...?

Breaking the stranglehold starts from having free and fair elections and having an enlightened electorate.

The election is the foundation for progressive and prosperous society under democracy, and once it's compromised, nothing good can happen.

Do we all understand that?

Ms. Catwalq said...

@Imnakoya: I have very little faith in elections and believe democracy is a western myth. With egotistical people like NIgerians, self governance has done us very little good.

@Solomonsydelle: Breaking the status quo for me would simply be doing the right thing no matter what. It's not easy but if we all did the right thing, the status quo will be destroyed.

culturesoup said...

Hi SSD, great post as usual. Sadly, i couldn't participate last week. It seems like it was a lively discussion.

I vaguely remember coming across the Nigerian Proclamation (i think it was on BBC) but i wasn't a reader of your blog then.

I completely agree with your statement about the average Nigerian. I think that one of the country's most fundamental problems is the lack of ability to control or punish those in power. Good governance doesn't mean that we never have any rogues in government but that we have a way to rein them in or get them out of office and that system is sorely lacking in Nigeria.

I don't know if you've been following the parliamentary scandal in the UK. In the grand scheme of things, MPs over-claiming on their expenses does not seem like such a big deal but the outcome that the public response has generated caught my attention.

Contrast that with Nigeria where the ruling class does what it pleases without regard to public opinion.

BTW: i just started my first blog so i will no longer be commenting as Baraal.

Danny Bagucci said...

Have to say you nailed it as usual.. Chaos as a tool has never failed to work.. especially when even the people who are being cheated out of their heritage, the common men/ women are battling to eke out a living.. as opposed to asking the hard questions of government...

Beauty said...

Don’t fly these planes is a daming insight into aviation in Nigeria but since we know the problems, why is it so difficult to apply its solutions? Our people are mainly focused on winning elections at all cost but do not understand that "Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance." OBJ's contribution to Nigeria? Otta Farms despite 3 terms as Head of State?

How will history remember YAR'ADUA? Rigged election winner? This is not about the everyday Nigerian that follow the fool with the cola like sheep. They have been conditioned to servitude and as such the leadership qualities found wanting cannot just appear. You cannot teach greed and corruption but highlight it. YAR'ADUA may well be a good person but a leader? Why is he not in the UN appealing for help from its Special Political and Decolonization unit? Why spend the cash we do not have fighting his own people?

Google Nigeria and you get; a transit point for heroin and cocaine, major money-laundering center, massive corruption and criminal activity. Very high degree of risk in food or waterborne diseases, vectorborne disease, one of the most highly endemic areas for Lassa fever, water contact disease: leptospirosis and shistosomiasis, animal contact disease: rabies and highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza. Is anyone person able to influence anything?

We can only highlight these issues and add to the knowledge base. It is folly doing anything without knowledge. Never under-estimate contributions here and elsewhere since "ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but STUPID lasts forever." but future generations replace the dead wood. Obama is a case in point.


@ Standtall: Its a shame I missed when you espoused this view. Like you, I think that the little we do adds up, but I still understand that structures/systems are necessary to create a better nation. Those structures/systems/institutions help buttress the good we do as individuals and protect those who do the right thing from those who do wrong.

Anyway, I hope we get 'there' sooner than later. How you dey, my sista?

@ Omo Oba: Thanks for stopping by! Yes, the Judiciary has proven that it can stand by the side of the law and reverse a lot of the 'election' results that came out of 2007. However, when we had a conversation about the Judiciary, spurred by a great comment by reader and blogger Mogaji. Although the Judiciary is doing a better job than the other systems of government, we cannot ignore the reality that they are not perfect. That being said, I , like you, see the Judiciary, despite its imperfections, to be a glimmer of hope.

@ imnakoya: "Breaking the stranglehold starts from having free and fair elections and having an enlightened electorate."You know that most of us would not disagree with this point, but it still fails to address how we get to that point. How do we get to the point of having free and fair elections when godfathers continue to control who gets a position? And, when that happens, how do we convince those in power to actually do something positive for the people?

I look at Lagos and the reality that, as N.I.M.M.O. pointed out, there is a perception of progress which encourages even ordinary people to do better, expect more and collaborate for the greater good. I will never forget Tobenna's post on his BRT ride and how inspiring it was to read about how orderly the process was.

There, we can see that a governor has figured out that if you begin to lessen the chaos, the people will fill in the blanks and everyone will ultimately benefit - rich or poor. Some argue that this only happened because Fashola's party wants to illustrate the difference between their party and the ruling party, PDP. That being said, we all know that many other governors either do not care to make such changes or are incapable (weak). So how do we bridge that gap?

As for an enlightened public, again, I am with you wholeheartedly. After all, we blog to inform readers, shebi? But, how do we reach those who have no electricity to read our blogs or read more independent online publications? How do we reach those who couldn't even be bothered to get political because it just does not pay off for them in their daily life? These are the questions I am seeking answers to. Forgive me for unleashing all of them at you, but I know you, and everyone else, is up to the challenge. So, make una begin yarn...

@ Sisi catwalq:, madam, long time no see. I need to challenge you to go further with your comment to Imnakoya as I am genuinely intrigued. If Western democracy is not practical for Nigeria, what would you recommend as an alternative? And why? Mind you, I am not criticizing your comment. I just think that it raises an interesting point, and I for one would love to discuss it further at this here blog.

Matter of fact, let me send you a message sef...


@ culturesoup AKA Baraal: Nigeria's Punishment Problem is definitely undermines the ability to transform Nigeria and entrench democracy.

"Good governance doesn't mean that we never have any rogues in government but that we have a way to rein them in or get them out of office and that system is sorely lacking in Nigeria."That is so well said. In fact that should be the reader's quote of the week.

A lot of readers have been encouraging me to touch on the MP scandal in England and quite frankly, as much as i would like to, I try not to be too redundant with the material here. But, honestly, it could happen in Nigeria with serious focus and attention and definitely money. However, I do not have the money to push my agenda - a FREE NIGERIA.

Anyway, we shall get there. And can I just say that your post on Nigerian women is so on point. Will leave a comment very soon.

@ Danny: Exactly. The common person cannot ask those hard questions. they don't have the time or energy, some of them. This is not to suggest that ordinary poor people have not managed to revolutionize the world, we all know it would be foolhardy to make that assertion.

nevertheless, I continue to wonder how we get to the point where those who have absolutely nothing, and as such, nothing to lose, will realize that their sheer numbers is enough to demand that things improve. I just hope it happens peacefully, and that it happens soon. Thanks so much for participating in this conversation.

@ Unkulu Beauty: (I don't know why I like saying that, but I do, lol!)

The frankness of your comment and the reality it contains is not just damning, but frankly, scary, when you consider the implications for the nation's future. Many might disagree, but I believe the country is hanging on a thread and all that is necessary is the right combination of combustibles. Sometimes, I like to think that the rest of the world cannot afford to let the country fail, but I realize that humans are not necessarily rational and so you never know.

"Is anyone person able to influence anything?"When it comes to Nigeria, I think not. That is the case anywhere actually. What worries me is that, it doesn't even seem as if there is any proper leadership in the country. Unless the chop and quench brigade can be considered leadership.

nevertheless, I hold out hope that something good will happen to create a wave of positive change. God knows I would love to be a part of it!

Thanks so much for adding to this conversation. Much appreciated.

@ everyone: thank you all for participating in this discussion. I am finding it particularly enlightening and hope that is the same for you. Thank you so much for freely sharing your opinions.

babajidesalu said...

Hello SSD,

I have read and would I say reserve my comments.

I understand some of the plight of Nigerians and all I will continue to advocate is whilst we observe and report the bad and the ugly, remember there is the good side as well as ably narrated by NIMMO.

taKia and God bless.


@ babajidesalu: not sure I get your point. But, I as well will reserve my comments. thanks so much for swinging by though! Hope your family and yourself are well.

imnakoya said...

How do we get to the point of having free and fair elections when godfathers continue to control who gets a position? And, when that happens, how do we convince those in power to actually do something positive for the people? I have some ideas on my blog, Grandiose Parlor, and I will share some here

First, Nigeria will not get to the "point of having free and fair elections" in just one step, and neither can it happen via one route. Some of the critical elements needed to make this happen are better access to information, and the presence of well-led and organized pool of democracy advocates. It has come to the point that Nigeria needs to learn from Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and how they went about organizing their bases and championing their causes.

These democracy advocates should also tap into success stories like Governors Tunde Fashola (Lagos), Rotimi Amechi (Rivers) and Segun Mimiko (Ondo) as tools and brands to market democracy in Nigeria.

They must be ready to tap into the resources of existing grassroots structures like street and landlord associations, market women, transporters’ and students’ organizations to drive their agenda because getting free and fair elections rely on just on the government, but all Nigerians, who must wrestle ownership of democracy from the hands of the few cabals.

Without this grassroots component, I doubt if the true meanings of democracy can be realized.

StandTall-The Activist said...

@ SSD: I do agree with you totally. We need the structure, we need a better system and if speaking u and demanding for this is all we can do as average Nigerians, it's something.

I am fine and you?

meaw said...

hello, your post is good.

i love it.

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